Cancer Markers (Tumor Markers)

Cancer Markers Testing GenLife Miami

Cancer Markers  – Tumor Markers

Tumor markers are used to help detect, diagnose, and manage some types of cancer

Tumor markers are substances that are produced by cancer or by other cells of the body in response to cancer or certain benign (noncancerous) conditions. Most tumor markers are made by normal cells as well as by cancer cells; however, they are produced at higher levels in cancerous conditions. These substances can be found in the blood, urine, stool, tumor tissue, or other tissues or bodily fluids of some patients with cancer. Most tumor markers are proteins. However, more recently, patterns of gene expression and changes to DNA have also begun to be used as tumor markers. Markers of the latter type are assessed in tumor tissue specifically.So far more than 20 different tumor markers have been characterized and are in clinical use. Some are associated with only one type of cancer, whereas others are associated with two or more cancer types. There is no “universal” tumor marker that can detect any type of cancer. There are some limitations to the use of tumor markers. Sometimes,noncancerous conditions can cause the levels of certain tumor markers to increase. In addition, not everyone with a particular type of cancer will have a higher level of a tumor marker associated with that cancer. Moreover, tumor markers have not been identified for every type of cancer.

Tumor markers are used to help detect, diagnose, and manage some types of cancer. Although an elevated level of a tumor marker may suggest the presence of cancer, this alone is not enough to diagnose cancer. Therefore, measurements of tumor markers are usually combined with other tests, such as biopsies, to diagnose cancer.

Tumor markers that are currently in common use are listed below.

Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)

Cancer types: Liver cancer and germ cell tumors
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To help diagnose liver cancer and follow response to treatment; to assess stage, prognosis, and response to treatment of germ cell tumors
Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (Beta-hCG)

Cancer types: Choriocarcinoma and testicular cancer
Tissue analyzed: Urine or blood
How used: To assess stage, prognosis, and response to treatment
CA15-3/CA27.29

Cancer type: Breast cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To assess whether treatment is working or disease has recurred
CA19-9

Cancer types: Pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer, bile duct cancer, and gastric cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To assess whether treatment is working
CA-125

Cancer type: Ovarian cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To help in diagnosis, assessment of response to treatment, and evaluation of recurrence
Calcitonin

Cancer type: Medullary thyroid cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To aid in diagnosis, check whether treatment is working, and assess recurrence
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)

Cancer types: Colorectal cancer and breast cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To check whether colorectal cancer has spread; to look for breast cancer recurrence and assess response to treatment
Estrogen receptor (ER)/progesterone receptor (PR)

Cancer type: Breast cancer
Tissue analyzed: Tumor
How used: To determine whether treatment with hormonal therapy (such as tamoxifen) is appropriate
Fibrin/fibrinogen

Cancer type: Bladder cancer
Tissue analyzed: Urine
How used: To monitor progression and response to treatment
Immunoglobulins

Cancer types: Multiple myeloma and Waldenström macroglobulinemia
Tissue analyzed: Blood and urine
How used: To help diagnose disease, assess response to treatment, and look for recurrence
Lactate dehydrogenase

Cancer type: Germ cell tumors
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To assess stage, prognosis, and response to treatment
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)

Cancer type: Prostate cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To help in diagnosis, assess response to treatment, and look for recurrence
Thyroglobulin

Cancer type: Thyroid cancer
Tissue analyzed: Blood
How used: To evaluate response to treatment and look for recurrence
Tumor markers might be useful in screening tests that aim to detect cancer early, before there are any symptoms. For a screening test to be useful, it should have very high sensitivity (ability to correctly identify people who have the disease) and specificity (ability to correctly identify people who do not have the disease). If a test is highly sensitive, it will identify most people with the disease—that is, it will result in very few false-negative results. If a test is highly specific, only a small number of people will test positive for the disease who do not have it—in other words, it will result in very few false-positive results.

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of PSA in the blood, is often used to screen men for prostate cancer. However, an increased PSA level can be caused by benign prostate conditions as well as by prostate cancer, and most men with an elevated PSA level do not have prostate cancer. Initial results from two large randomized controlled trials, the NCI-conducted Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, or PLCO, and the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer, showed that PSA testing at best leads to only a small reduction in the number of prostate cancer deaths. Moreover, it is not clear whether the benefits of PSA screening outweighthe harms of follow-up diagnostic tests and treatments for cancers that in many cases would never have threatened a man’s life.

Similarly, results from the PLCO trial showed that CA-125, a tumor marker that is sometimes elevated in the blood of women with ovarian cancer but can also be elevated in women with benign conditions, is not sufficiently sensitive or specific to be used together with transvaginal ultrasound to screen for ovarian cancer in women at average risk of the disease. An analysis of 28 potential markers for ovarian cancer in blood from women who later went on to develop ovarian cancer found that none of these markers performed even as well as CA-125 at detecting the disease in women at average risk.

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